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Streetcar Construction Not Your Typical Rail Project

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, April 18, 2008, at 07:54AM
Portland Streetcar Trip Eric Richardson [Flickr]

LADOT's Mike Bagheri and the Planning Department's Urban Design Studio head Emily Gabel Luddy check out the streetcar bed.

One of the most interesting things presented in yesterday's talks about the Portland Streetcar was the pace of construction. Mike Powell, owner of massive Portland bookstore Powell's Books, told the delegation how he was originally opposed to the project, which was scheduled to run on two sides of his store.

His experience with rail construction was the work for Portland's light rail line, the MAX. There the street had been torn up for long stretches during construction, and Powell worried that the disruption would kill his business.

The timeline for streetcar construction? One block per week, with only the lane under construction taken out of service. Both the street and sidewalk remained open.

After becoming convinced himself, Powell became a salesman for the line. When he would encounter a property owner who brought up the disruption question, Powell would tell them one thing. "Go to the beach for one week, and when you come back your property will be worth 50% more." Yesterday he told the L.A. group that his statement wasn't correct. "I was wrong about the 50%. It ended up being 300%."

The streetcar bed is only 8 feet wide and shallow enough to avoid utilities disruption. Utilities relocation can become one of the largest expenses in a rail construction project.


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